A walk around a lake

The young black swans were almost grown up in late April although they were half the size of the parents and still fuzzy gray. I stopped by Lake Morton on the way home from Bot Tower Gardens and did a walk around the lake before heading home.

This black swan was still sitting on eggs. It looks like she had 3 of them.

There were lots of young mute swans at various ages as well.

This mute swan was checking out her eggs.

Some of the swans were still flirting.

There was a small flock of white pelicans still hanging around. I didn’t think they stayed here all year round but they should have headed north by now. I love those pink and orange beaks.

Even the laughing gulls were flirting. It’s weird to see gulls at this lake since it’s in the middle of the state but there’s always a lot of them here. Maybe because people feed the ducks and swans so the gulls are trying to get a free handout.

A baby moorhen walking around in the grass with those big feet.

I heard some noise near the top of the cypress trees and realized there was a great blue heron nest up there with some almost grown babies.

A turtle posing for me.

Inspire Me Monday

Low tide in late December

I headed down to Fort Desoto Park in late December hoping to see the huge flocks of white pelicans. No luck on North beach but I found a small flock of them way out sitting on a spoil island. The first shot is zoomed in and cropped up. Later I was walking on the beach and a lone one flew over my head.

I saw the above kingfisher flying around out in the North Beach marsh, diving for fish.

A few dunlins were feeding in the shallow end.

I love this time of year when it’s sunny and cool and the tide is really low. You can walk out forever before you get to ankle deep water.

Watching the ships go by from the fishing pier.

I stopped by Crescent Lake Park on the way home to look for otters and found a pair of white pelicans instead.

A few other birds at the lake were a wood stork and a lesser scaup with a snack in his beak. I think he had a crawfish.

SkyWatch Friday

White pelicans in St. Pete

I wasn’t surprised to see white pelicans at North Shore Park in St. Pete in late December. They usually spend the winter somewhere around the park although it’s hit or miss to catch them right in front of the beach. They cruise around the area and sometimes hang out far into the channels in the neighborhoods nearby. I had stopped by for a quick walk and ended up going back to my car and getting my camera. They were standing right there in pelican leg high water.

Turning around to leave, I could see an osprey sitting up on the lights.

Sometimes you just have to stop and watch the boats go by.

There were lots of little shorebirds along the beach. I then decided to stop by nearby Crescent Lake Park on the way home.

Right in the middle of the lake at the park were 3 lone pelicans. I have seen them here before as well but they were all swimming separately. I wonder if they originally came with the beach group and somehow got separated.

I spent some time trying to catch this osprey diving for fish but he was just too far across the lake and he kept missing.

Where injured sea critters live

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has more than just rescued dolphins. They also take in other injured animals from all over. You are greated by these white pelicans when you first come into the aquarium. They have a lot of character but the glare on the glass is a challenge.

After walking around for a while, we realized we could see them from the other side as well. They had moved over to the inside of the exhibit and I think I bonded over this one for a second.

Up close with some crabs.

You can also see stingrays up close.

All of the turtles here have some type of injury. The top one had lost his back flippers and the bottom one lost his front flippers. There are all types of injuries, most of them here are man made. Boat strikes, getting flippers tangled in fishing line or crab trap lines. The aquarium also rehabilitates a lot of turtles when red tide (algea bloom) is bad but any of those that recover are released.

Looking for dolphins

The weather was too nice during the week of Thanksgiving not to be outside all week. My sister and I booked a dolphin tour out of the Clearwater marina one morning. Even if we didn’t see any dolphins, it would be a fun trip out on the water.

We were not going out to far, staying in the intercoastal waterway area. The tide was super low so we had to stay right at the channel markers. I could see Sand Key beach far off to the right.

Right away we saw a dolphin! We were cruising along next to another tour boat and a dolphin was right behind them, chasing the waves. Of course we were facing right into the sun so it was hard to get good shots. I see a lot of dolphins down at Fort Desoto but rarely see them coming out of the water this much so this was fun.

Some of the birds we saw cruising around including two white pelicans flying high up.

We also saw several dolphins chasing fish into the sea walls. They were flapping the water hard to stun the fish. After all of the dolphin sightings we headed out to a small spit island to look for shells. More on that later.

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Early morning on the beach.

I got to Fort Desoto Park after the sun had come up but it was hiding behind a big cloud. I was able to catch the orange glow behind the cloud though, right over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I was hoping to find the big flock of white pelicans who had been hanging out at the park for weeks now but I could only find 2 out at the north end. 

I know I have a million pictures of the reddish egret but I can’t help stopping and snapping a few more when he’s dancing around for his fish. He was hanging out in a tide pool and was putting on a show.

A few other birds on the beach was a turkey vulture cleaning up the beach eating a dead fish and a great blue heron strutting around.

I was walking on a back trail hoping to find the white pelicans in the back lagoon and saw this eagle flying in to a tree right in front of me. He landed in a dead tree which was good since he would have been hidden in the leaves if the the tree was still alive. He stayed for a few seconds and grabbed a branch before taking off. Assuming he was heading back to the nest across the park.

Pelicans flying across the clouds.

I stopped by the fishing pier before leaving but it was quiet. I couldn’t help but snap the cormorant drying his wings and then I noticed this crow trying to eat a piece of paper. He played with it for a few minutes but finally realized he couldn’t eat it so he dropped it in the water. Ugh. More trash.

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Things have changed.

The non-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened on Clearwater Beach in 1972 in a former water treatment plant. They opened as a research and learning center and by 1980 they started rehabilitating dolphins. I don’t remember going there as a child when we use to come down to Clearwater to visit my grandparents but I do remember visiting a few times with my parents when they retired down here in the early 90’s. When Brett and I moved down here 19 years ago I got an annual pass and took my Mom there to see the dolphins a lot. She was in a retirement home and was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She lived close by and it made for a fun morning out for her. She loved just sitting and watching the dolphins and turtles swimming around. Back then you could park at the front door and walk right in. No parking decks or lines to get in, You could also get pretty close up to the dolphins.

The aquarium is home to Winter (the movie star from A Dolphin’s Tale). Winter lost her tail years ago and the aquarium was able to get a prosthetic tail to help her swim better. It’s been several years since I had been and they recently had a big addition built on (they added a 1.5 million gallon tank) so I decided to head over to the beach to see Winter on a rare Monday off. I had to pay to park in a deck, stand in a line (small one though) to get in on a Monday. I’m glad they are doing so well though. They do a lot with injured sea life here. Not just rehabilitating them here but they send teams out to rescue as well.

You walk in on the upper level and can see into the pool. I didn’t take many pictures up here since it was dark inside and the dolphins were swimming lower down in the water. This is not a dolphin show like in the old days. These are injured dolphins that are being rehabilitated that you get to see up close. Although if you hit it right at feeding time, the dolphins do perform specific behaviors as part of feeding but no jumping out of the water and flipping over.

Here’s were you want to be. There are windows all around the tank so you can walk around and see different dolphins. Winter and her best friend Hope are in the main tank.

Winter did not have on her prostetic tail while I was there. You can see she is missing her flipper. Se came pretty close to the window.

On the other side there were several other dolphins swimming close to the window. The glare from the window did not make it easy to get pictures. The dolphins in the main tank live here full time now. They all have some type of injury including vision loss, hearing loss and other illnesses where they would not survive being released back into the wild. The main goal is to release the dolphins back out and most of them do get set free after they recover.

There are also many other types of animals here including lots of turtles. All were injured at some time. You can see in that (blurry) picture on the bottom that the turtle is missing his front feet.

The new building from the upper parking deck.

Pano across the intercoastal waterway looking towards Clearwater.

Looking toward the beach from the aquarium. I should have gone over for a quick swim but the beach was packed in April, even on a Monday. Parking on the beach is also tough and expensive so there’s that. And, I was starving so it was time to head home for lunch.

Yes, masks were still required in April here. Even though a lot of it is outside, people crowd in front of the windows. Hoping my next trip is maskless.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

White marshmallows in the gulf

In early November I headed out to Fort Desoto late in the day. I rarely go late in the day but it had been nasty that morning and then the sky cleared up. I was hoping to see the white pelicans again before they took off for another spot in the state to spend the rest of the winter. They were still out on the spit but this time most of them were on the sand instead of in the water. It looks like they were winding down for the day and getting ready for bed.

Zooming in, I could see many of them already starting to sleep. One by one they were starting to plop down on the sand.

A few were still stretching and preening.

Some were still taking that late day bath.

They all looked pretty fat and happy but looks could be deceiving. Hopefully that’s they case and they are all filling up on fish during their short stay.

My Corner of the World

Pelicans, wood ducks and swans (Oh my!).

Lake Morton in Lakeland is a good spot to find white pelicans in the winter besides Fort Desoto. There are a lot fewer at Lake Morton but you can usually get closer. They hang out on the brick retaining walls around the lake. Most of the time they are sleeping when I’m there but on a recent trip they were moving around a little. I think two of them were fighting over space on the floating pole.

A coot swimming by.

Wood ducks were napping up in the cypress trees and some were swimming around the lake.

There’s always turtles sitting on the cypress knees.

The city of Lakeland were selling swans in late October. When I was there they were in holding pens on the lake. I felt bad that they were leaving their home but there have been banner crops of babies over the last few years and the lake is over-run with swans. Swans were getting hit by cars and fighting with each other. Hopefully they’ll go to homes that have more room for them. If I had a small pond on my property I would buy a pair. The money goes back into the fund to feed the swans at this lake.

Not that early for sunrise

Sunrise at East Beach at Fort Desoto. No, I wasn’t up that early. This was in late October before the time changed so it was right before 7:30. There was a small cloud right above the bridge that kept the sun from being clear but it was still a great sky.

As I stood there watching the sun come up, I could see the frigatebirds starting to circle high up in the sky. They were coming from across the bay and then ended up right over my head.

Once the sun was up it was time to go hang out with the white pelicans.

SkyWatch Friday